Trash Questions in College Sets

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Trash Questions in College Sets

Post by Ciorwrong »

I remain unconvinced why we need trash in collegiate quizbowl. ACF should eliminate it from its distribution like many tournaments have already done.

I think having a few pop culture-adjacent questions is fine per tournament. For sports, it seems perfectly reasonable to ask about historically important athletes such as Jackie Robinson, Billie Jean King or Muhammad Ali or whoever once per tournament. MWT also asked about sumo wrestling and recent court cases about collegiate athletes in an interesting way (IMHO). These type of questions seem more preferable than the NAQT-style trash that is common within high school packets. There are plenty of ways to ask about historically or societally significant pop culture figures or creators such as John Waters or Spike Lee or Greta Gerwig within the other arts or other academic distribution. Culturally well-known or studied television shows such as like Leave it to Beaver seem more worthy of inclusion than the latest Netflix sitcom or Rick and Morty episode. Music has already been discussed but recent events like PIANO and The Unanswered Question seem to show how to do this well.

Quizbowl is principally academic competition and it's very hard to ask about sports or pop culture topics without resorting to trivial clues. This is especially true for fleeting topics like last season's NBA finals or the most recent Emmy's. Academic film can be done well but I can't imagine a question on like Troll 2 (a common trash answerline) is going to play well if done as an academic question. Why can't we be more inclusive in other academic and other fine arts and social science? Those topics are already incredibly constrained within the 20/20 distribution.
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Post by Cheynem »

I'm not sure what is meant by "trivial clues" in this context. I wouldn't toss Troll 2 up at like ACF Fall or SCT because I doubt many in the target audience have seen it or know about it in a non-meme context, but you could take, I don't know, any number of "trash" films (off the top of my head, let's say Lady and the Tramp, Home Alone, and The Avengers) and use good, substantive, non-trivial clues and write an okay tossup--one that rewards deep knowledge of the movie.

I think you raise two other points, one of which I have mixed feelings on and the other I disagree with.

You suggest that it might be good to not have trash period. I personally disagree, but I can see the argument for this. I think it's good ACF Nationals does not have trash, I think it makes sense for Regionals to not have trash, and I'm fine with individual tournaments choosing not to have trash. I think it's fine in some tournaments, but I see your reasoning.

I disagree with the argument about "it's okay to ask about historically important trash." This has been (in my opinion) impractical over the years for a couple reasons--people have a hard time defining historically important trash (I would personally not conclude Leave it to Beaver is very important at all); many people don't actually know much about historically important trash (do we really want to see deep tossups on I Love Lucy?); and you run out of answer space pretty fast. I think if you have pop culture questions, you have to not cut things off by historical importance, or, as you've alluded to, basically not have trash and allow for minor amounts of "fringe cases."
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Re: Miscellaneous Distribution and Community

Post by Ciorwrong »

Cheynem wrote: Fri Jun 05, 2020 7:10 pm I'm not sure what is meant by "trivial clues" in this context. I wouldn't toss Troll 2 up at like ACF Fall or SCT because I doubt many in the target audience have seen it or know about it in a non-meme context, but you could take, I don't know, any number of "trash" films (off the top of my head, let's say Lady and the Tramp, Home Alone, and The Avengers) and use good, substantive, non-trivial clues and write an okay tossup--one that rewards deep knowledge of the movie.

I think you raise two other points, one of which I have mixed feelings on and the other I disagree with.

You suggest that it might be good to not have trash period. I personally disagree, but I can see the argument for this. I think it's good ACF Nationals does not have trash, I think it makes sense for Regionals to not have trash, and I'm fine with individual tournaments choosing not to have trash. I think it's fine in some tournaments, but I see your reasoning.

I disagree with the argument about "it's okay to ask about historically important trash." This has been (in my opinion) impractical over the years for a couple reasons--people have a hard time defining historically important trash (I would personally not conclude Leave it to Beaver is very important at all); many people don't actually know much about historically important trash (do we really want to see deep tossups on I Love Lucy?); and you run out of answer space pretty fast. I think if you have pop culture questions, you have to not cut things off by historical importance, or, as you've alluded to, basically not have trash and allow for minor amounts of "fringe cases."
The idea is that if you have somewhere between 1/1 and 3/3 pop culture adjacent questions per tournament, editorial decisions will allow the most signifcant and well-known topics to emerge. Perhaps Leave it to Beaver is a poor example of a historically important TV show. Are M*A*S*H or Twilight Zone better examples from my parents' childhood? (I'm not entirely sure.) If Home Alone is one of the handful of trash film questions a tournament, I guess that's fine but I think in general it would be better and more interesting to ask about The Lobster or Dancer in the Dark in this limited film distribution. Both of these films of course come up already, but it's important to realize that subdistributing answerlines is on some level zero sum. We have to make marginal inclusion decisions somewhere. I don't see justification for including a tossup on a recent superhero movie at this time in a serious academic quizbowl set. Personally, I find that comic books are over-clued but others may disagree and find that pop culture category XYZ is over-clued instead.

The point about trivia is as follows. When writing a question on, say, an actor or a sports team or a TV show, the clues are going to be less contextual or weighty than writing about an academic topic. There are a lot of tossups on actors that jump around their careers in a way that is similar to a bar trivia category on "Meryl Streep films" or whatever. She's obviously an all-time-level actress but it feels jarring to have a question jump around her career which spans decades. It's likewise thematically annoying when academic tossups on Greece in literature clue Cavafy and Homer but I digress... I much prefer thematic tightness and trying to connect tossups to academically studied or central concepts and I feel this is hard to do on many trash answerlines.
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Re: Miscellaneous Distribution and Community

Post by Cheynem »

I think that IS true about how a lot of trash questions are written, but not all, and it's entirely possible not to write them that way. You could write a very fine De Niro tossup just cluing, say, Taxi Driver and Goodfellas. In fact, that's probably going to be better than a catch-all De Niro tossup. I think you're right that sets should try to include the strongest possible trash or popular culture questions--I would probably try to avoid a superhero movie tossup in a lot of upper level sets too, just because I think they're so well known.
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Re: Miscellaneous Distribution and Community

Post by Ciorwrong »

Cheynem wrote: Fri Jun 05, 2020 8:00 pm I think that IS true about how a lot of trash questions are written, but not all, and it's entirely possible not to write them that way. You could write a very fine De Niro tossup just cluing, say, Taxi Driver and Goodfellas. In fact, that's probably going to be better than a catch-all De Niro tossup. I think you're right that sets should try to include the strongest possible trash or popular culture questions--I would probably try to avoid a superhero movie tossup in a lot of upper level sets too, just because I think they're so well known.
I entirely agree with this. I think a De Niro tossup cluing predominantly those two films is perfectly fine. I think a De Niro tossup that tries to clue obscure stuff like the 2012 direct-to-video "classic" Freelancers--even in a lead-in-- is a bit silly. The standards we apply to modern tossups should likewise apply to trash or pop culture-adjacent questions. There are a ton of examples of bad trash questions and they fail for a lot of the same reasons old school academic questions were bad.
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Re: Trash Questions in College Sets

Post by Stained Diviner »

Harris was correct. Leave it to Beaver is a reasonable topic for these questions.

3/3 is a lot of these questions. There are not a lot of clues you can use about Jackie Robinson, Billie Jean King, or Muhammad Ali if there are only 1-2 baseball players, tennis players, or boxers that are worth asking about once you limit yourself to athletes who impacted the world beyond sports. It can be done, and I have done it, but you have to think about how often you want Jackie Robinson to be a tossup answer once you decide that before the FTP you can't mention baseball, Dodgers, 2nd baseman, etc. To be clear, he could be and should be a US History tossup answer, but if you can't get into his baseball career then you don't want him coming up at every tournament, and the way you get 3/3 of these questions is to ask about Jackie Robinson at every tournament.
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Re: Trash Questions in College Sets

Post by vinteuil »

Trash can be historically important, but can pop culture not be important in the present? Can a 2020 regionals bonus on the WNBA not reflect a growing recognition of that league, its players, their advocacy? Isn't a question on Megan Rapinoe (as a player) just as much a comment on her broader exposure due to, e.g. political entanglements? (And would you like to hear about the conversations about race in Canada that were sparked by the "fleeting topic" of the Raptors' victory last year?)

There are a lot of different reasons to ask about a given topic.
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Re: Trash Questions in College Sets

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vinteuil wrote: Sat Jun 06, 2020 7:23 pm Trash can be historically important, but can pop culture not be important in the present? Can a 2020 regionals bonus on the WNBA not reflect a growing recognition of that league, its players, their advocacy? Isn't a question on Megan Rapinoe (as a player) be just as much a comment on her broader exposure due to, e.g. political entanglements? (And would you like to hear about the conversations about race in Canada that were sparked by the "fleeting topic" of the Raptors' victory last year?)

There are a lot of different reasons to ask about a given topic.
Exactly this. A lot of "trash" has academic and cultural salience in the present –- plenty of college classes discuss pop culture that touches on societally relevant themes that may not be so relevant in a few years. If we remove pop culture on the basis that its significance may be time-sensitive, then a similar line of thought could be used to remove current events and geography as well. And if we don't test knowledge of "fleeting topics" that are nonetheless important in our present society, we are sending a message to players that being dialed into our complex and constantly evolving society is unimportant (at least in the context of quizbowl). Furthermore, elements of culture that are important in the present are, I think, more likely to represent marginalized groups who have been (and still continue to be) historically cast aside by systemic biases in academics. For example, Kendrick Lamar won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Music over several contemporary composers that people would have no reservations about including in an academic context. Yet, if there was no pop culture in the distribution, there could be more reservations about including his work and the work of other culturally significant hip-hop artists at all, while white contemporary artists who, while still worth asking about, are included by virtue of practicing art forms that have been propped up by privilege and are thus more readily accepted as "historically significant" or "academic." For us to dictate what topics are worthy of coming up in quizbowl based on loftily-defined criteria of "historical significance" or "triviality" deepens the insidious patterns of elitism and prejudice that run through what we have defined and continue to define as "the canon."

Harris's original post also seems to assert that pop culture should be excised from the distribution partly because it is difficult to execute high-quality pop culture questions. Although I have many grievances about how quizbowl writing corps tend to handle pop culture, I reject the notion that a certain subject should not be included in the distribution because quizbowl writing corps have trouble with it. If anything, this only serves to perpetuate the exact mechanisms by which "bad trash questions" have come about in quizbowl -- because people will only write about topics that they are comfortable writing about. Instead of kicking the can down the road and not doing anything to solve what is clearly a systemic issue, we should push for the community to do better.
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Re: Trash Questions in College Sets

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vinteuil wrote: Sat Jun 06, 2020 7:23 pm Trash can be historically important, but can pop culture not be important in the present? Can a 2020 regionals bonus on the WNBA not reflect a growing recognition of that league, its players, their advocacy? Isn't a question on Megan Rapinoe (as a player) be just as much a comment on her broader exposure due to, e.g. political entanglements? (And would you like to hear about the conversations about race in Canada that were sparked by the "fleeting topic" of the Raptors' victory last year?)

There are a lot of different reasons to ask about a given topic.
The issue with fleeting topics is the severe lag in quizbowl. Of course, the Raptors victory was a hugely important even in Canada and the world for a lot of reasons, but it would come up in questions months and months after it occurred. I remember last year at HSNCT, there were questions on the Raptors and I think the Bucks in back-to-back rounds when they played a playoff game the night before the tournament and made the question already outdated. I feel like I'm a good qb sports player, and my personal preference is for questions to be more historical than contemporary. I think asking about Rapinoe or the WNBA is fine, but questions that sound like "This 2018 WNBA MVP and scoring leader blah blah" are very boring. In college sets, I tend to like sports questions that try to clue multiple sports if possible. I did this in my Vancouver tossup from Spartan Housewrite that clued the Olympics, NBA, CFL and NHL. This allows players with a variety of sports background to show their knowledge rather than try to excessively clue minor Vancouver Canucks players. I can't imagine many academic sets have more than 1 sports tossup if they are using a modern distribution.

I think questions about athlete activism could definitely go in the current events distribution (as it has) but I think that questions that clue specific 2019 bowl games or specific, often-times "memey" events from the world of sports tend to be overdone in quizbowl. As an easy eample, it was a bit tiring to hear jokes about the J.R. Smith finals mishap 6 months after it happened and Smith wasn't even an active NBA player anymore. As an aside, I think quizbowl sports questions tend to overclue Deadspin and ESPN personalities as well and music questions tend to overclue specific Pitchfork reviews. I imagine this is because of the demographic of quizbowl writers.

My dislike of trash in academic sets is more about how traditional trash questions are written. If, instead, trash questions in academic sets were written like other academic or current events or other arts questions (as was done in MWT), I'd be fine, but instead a trash question in SCT is very similar in style to a trash question in ACRONYM.

Dave is correct that not every tournament should ask about Ali or Jackie Robinson or whoever but those were the most prominent examples I thought of. It's of course difficult to list an exhaustive list of question ideas in a public forum like this even if I'm not really writing for quizbowl sets anymore.

Re. Wonyoung's point: if you think we should keep a sizeable amount of trash in academic quizbowl (say greater proportion than .5/.5), what distributions are you willing to prioritize less? I think there is an absolute ton of undermined categories and ideas in other academic/modern world, social science, other arts and (cultural!) geography. These categories should not get short shrift either but something has to give if we are doing a traditional 20/20 distribution. I think the distribution of a tournament like PIANO or Sun God was pretty good at balancing all of these things.
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Re: Trash Questions in College Sets

Post by Scone »

So I don't particularly have a strong stake in this conversation, but this bit right here made me think of something:
5 Fingaz to the Male Gaze wrote: Sat Jun 06, 2020 8:03 pm plenty of college classes discuss pop culture that touches on societally relevant themes that may not be so relevant in a few years.
The canon of quizbowl is supposed to reflect topics of academic significance. What exactly is academic significance? Its possible that this been clearly defined in the past and I don't know about it, but I feel that the fact that this debate is happening means that the standard hasn't been clearly been laid out enough. Are pop culture topics that would be discussed in college classes briefly of academic significance? Or does this standard only apply to material that has been thoroughly researched, for example?
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Re: Trash Questions in College Sets

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vinteuil wrote: Sat Jun 06, 2020 7:23 pm Trash can be historically important, but can pop culture not be important in the present? Can a 2020 regionals bonus on the WNBA not reflect a growing recognition of that league, its players, their advocacy? Isn't a question on Megan Rapinoe (as a player) be just as much a comment on her broader exposure due to, e.g. political entanglements? (And would you like to hear about the conversations about race in Canada that were sparked by the "fleeting topic" of the Raptors' victory last year?)

There are a lot of different reasons to ask about a given topic.
This is a very good post people should take to heart.

(Brief aside: I'm lead to believe that there were many more conversations about race and how people are treated in Canada after it came out that Bill Peters, the Calgary Flames coach, use racial slurs against a minor league player named Akim Aliu and also was physically violent with other players. (This is just my impression, so please correct me if I am completely off base here from what I saw while Aliu's claims were being investigated) Like Jacob Reed said, there are many reasons pop culture can reflect important conversations we have in the world, and sports is one way we can view it. Therefore, I think there's room for popular culture in the distribution, we just need to be better about how we use the distributional space)
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Re: Trash Questions in College Sets

Post by alexdz »

What about taking the "current events" space and creating subcategories just like we have elsewhere. You could have "government/politics/economy" and "popular culture" subdistributions within current events.
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Re: Trash Questions in College Sets

Post by ahuff »

I would like to fully agree with Wonyoung. At the risk of derailing this conversation, I would also like to posit that our treatment of pop culture and the general eurocentrism of our arts cannon are related. As black American music has become one of the most influential forces in world culture, not only inspiring artists globally, but getting the respect of the academy by for example winning Pulitzer Prizes, we seem to be unwilling to ask about any of it except for jazz in an arts tossup context. Visual artists of color who get displayed in museums all the time get an incredibly small part of the distribution. To think of some examples of artists I like off of the top of my head, quizbdb notes only one Kara Walker tossup, Aseemsdb has only two mentions of David Hammons in quizbowl history, David Siqueiros apparently hasn’t been asked about in five years, and Jose Posada’s work has never been even clued in an artistic context. I primarily deal with art in the US and Mexico, but I bet people who have done more study on Asia, Africa, and other parts of Latin America could say a lot of the same things about how art from those areas of the world are represented. I can’t think of a single Latin American, African, or black American film we regularly ask about, even as many of the most acclaimed movies of the recent past have come from these cultural traditions. All of these artistic traditions from nonwhite communities fail to get a significant foothold in collegiate quizbowl except maybe, in the case of film and music, in the pop culture distribution, and even then, we waste way too much of that area asking the ten thousandth question about geek culture, the fleeting sporting news of the week, or whatever the author’s personal pet interest is.

So I think it’s worth asking at the end of this, what do artists of color have to do to get quizbowl questions about them? Then after we ask that I think we need to ask ourselves if we’re comfortable with our answer. I for one am not.
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Re: Trash Questions in College Sets

Post by naan/steak-holding toll »

Without dismissing the relevance of biases rooted in cultural and personal backgrounds, I'd like to name name a bunch of Latin American and African directors I have seen asked about a number of times in the regular and above college canon, specifically in "art film" (as opposed to in the pop culture distribution) in response to this point:
I can’t think of a single Latin American, African, or black American film we regularly ask about, even as many of the most acclaimed movies of the recent past have come from these cultural traditions.
  • Fernando Meirelles (director of City of God, which has come up a number of times)
  • Glauber Rocha (director of Black God, White Devil among other things) and the Cinema Novo movement more broadly
  • Alejandro Jodorowsky
  • Spike Lee (not confined to pop culture; I believe he was asked about not only at MYSTERIUM 2016 but at least one NASAT in the art film dist as a tossup, among other appearances in bonuses)
  • Gordon Parks (questions I'm aware of have mainly asked about his photography, but I'd note that he is a director as well)
  • Charles Burnett (director of Killer of Sheep)
  • Ousmane Sembene (also an author, who has been perhaps asked about more as such, but a very notable director)
Admittedly, this list is rather small - it's only what I thought of off the top of my head, and I doubtless missed several names. It's also notable that there are no women on this list. Though this probably likely does reflect some collective lacunae on the part of quizbowl, I suspect it also reflects (what I understand to be) the narrowness of the film canon prior to the "Tommy Manifesto" which encouraged people to broaden their horizons beyond asking about mostly Japanese and European directors in the art film distribution. The expansion of the distribution since then perhaps has not adequately covered these aforementioned lacunae, but I do think it has been real and can be credited with quizbowl not just touching more on these directors, but also a broader range of films by other creators.

Perhaps this is not as widely felt at lower levels of the canon, but I certainly credit the higher level canon with introducing me to some of these Latin American, African, and black American directors (aside from Lee and Meirelles, who I had previously been aware of). We could definitely do more, but as someone who is decidedly not a film buff, I'm grateful for having heard questions that have introduced me to these creators from very different backgrounds than myself, and would venture to guess that my experience here is not unique.

I'd like to end by pointing people interested in learning more about Latin American and African films in particular at WORLDSTAR, and by encouraging people who wish to see more such artists represented to themselves get involved in writing questions. ACF's editor recruiting program and PADAWAN's training are good opportunities for doing so, and I'm very glad such open-application sets are becoming more common.
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Re: Trash Questions in College Sets

Post by Cheynem »

I think Andy has a good point--I would encourage people filling out all corners of a distribution, including art and popular culture, to try to diversify their topic material.

I might gently note that popular culture questions offer plenty of opportunities to talk about "artists of color," including filmmakers, performers, musicians, and, yes, even athletes (unquestionably some of the most notable figures of color in the U.S. are athletes). This is not to say that trash questions have always done the best at doing this, but the material is there as well and we shouldn't necessarily view popular culture questions as inherently taking up room for asking about such artists.
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Re: Trash Questions in College Sets

Post by vinteuil »

naan/steak-holding toll wrote: Mon Jun 08, 2020 10:03 am Without dismissing the relevance of biases rooted in cultural and personal backgrounds, I'd like to name name a bunch of Latin American and African directors I have seen asked about a number of times in the regular and above college canon, specifically in "art film" (as opposed to in the pop culture distribution) in response to this point:
I can’t think of a single Latin American, African, or black American film we regularly ask about, even as many of the most acclaimed movies of the recent past have come from these cultural traditions.
  • Fernando Meirelles (director of City of God, which has come up a number of times)
  • Glauber Rocha (director of Black God, White Devil among other things) and the Cinema Novo movement more broadly
  • Alejandro Jodorowsky
  • Spike Lee (not confined to pop culture; I believe he was asked about not only at MYSTERIUM 2016 but at least one NASAT in the art film dist as a tossup, among other appearances in bonuses)
  • Gordon Parks (questions I'm aware of have mainly asked about his photography, but I'd note that he is a director as well)
  • Charles Burnett (director of Killer of Sheep)
  • Ousmane Sembene (also an author, who has been perhaps asked about more as such, but a very notable director)
Admittedly, this list is rather small - it's only what I thought of off the top of my head, and I doubtless missed several names. It's also notable that there are no women on this list. Though this probably likely does reflect some collective lacunae on the part of quizbowl, I suspect it also reflects (what I understand to be) the narrowness of the film canon prior to the "Tommy Manifesto" which encouraged people to broaden their horizons beyond asking about mostly Japanese and European directors in the art film distribution. The expansion of the distribution since then perhaps has not adequately covered these aforementioned lacunae, but I do think it has been real and can be credited with quizbowl not just touching more on these directors, but also a broader range of films by other creators.

Perhaps this is not as widely felt at lower levels of the canon, but I certainly credit the higher level canon with introducing me to some of these Latin American, African, and black American directors (aside from Lee and Meirelles, who I had previously been aware of). We could definitely do more, but as someone who is decidedly not a film buff, I'm grateful for having heard questions that have introduced me to these creators from very different backgrounds than myself, and would venture to guess that my experience here is not unique.

I'd also point people interested in learning more about Latin American and African films in particular at WORLDSTAR.
I agree both that this problem is less pervasive at higher levels. Still, I think we could do better at lower levels. (Even if, to supplement your list, Cuarón, Iñárritu, and del Toro come up a good bit.)

This isn't just a matter of making Touki Bouki a regionals middle part or asking about Spike Lee in every set. Here's one example of what we could do: I don't have a particularly good ear to the ground in the "film world," but practically every time I listen, people are talking about the films of Jordan Peele—there are ways to ask about them that engage cinematography, themes, symbolism, etc. that I think are perfectly appropriate for an academic set. (And the same can go for Ryan Coogler, John Singleton, and I'm sure many others!)
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Re: Trash Questions in College Sets

Post by vcpavao »

I don't have a particularly good ear to the ground in the "film world," but practically every time I listen, people are talking about the films of Jordan Peele—there are ways to ask about them that engage cinematography, themes, symbolism, etc. that I think are perfectly appropriate for an academic set. (And the same can go for Ryan Coogler, John Singleton, and I'm sure many others!)
As someone who's engaged with the "film world," I agree with this. The most common argument I've seen against including them is that we need to wait for recent films, books, etc to stand the test of time before adding them to the canon. But this is applied inconsistently, as a book like Americanah (published in 2013) is in the lit canon for lower levels, so does this only apply to film? Gatekeeping the canon at lower levels by excluding recent films (which generally have more diverse casts and directors) is not engaging to younger players, who are probably sick of questions on Psycho and Citizen Kane, and puts the "non-art" films, like those directed by Jordan Peele, in "trash," i.e. not to be taken seriously. In addition, "waiting for the experts" to rank the films on a Sight & Sound poll or whatever is just an appeal to authority and not actually engaging with the film in the ways Jacob described.
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Re: Trash Questions in College Sets

Post by esotericReference »

With regard to the question of film, the distinction that quiz bowl tends to draw between "trash" film and "art" film borders on the arbitrary. To pick on one endlessly-recurring example, Oldboy far more strongly resembles most "trash" movies — action oriented, high-concept plotlines, hefty star power — than it does most "art" movies, and yet I'll be damned if I can make it a few months without seeing it placed in the VA distribution of some tournament.

I love trash quiz bowl probably as much as I love traditional quiz bowl, but honestly I wouldn't mind the category deletion from most tournaments if and only if categories are thereafter liberalized in their definitions. As has been alluded to several times already, Charles Ives, Aaron Copland, and Kendrick Lamar have all won Pulitzer Prizes for music, and yet one is suspiciously absent from most music questions. It's time to acknowledge that there are plenty of "trash" films (I'll give a specific shoutout to Shaft since Gordon Parks was mentioned) that have had a far greater impact on both culture and filmmaking style than many "art" films have. Call them trash or academic, but these are things that deserve to be asked about regardless.
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Re: Trash Questions in College Sets

Post by Mike Bentley »

esotericReference wrote: Mon Jun 08, 2020 12:29 pm I love trash quiz bowl probably as much as I love traditional quiz bowl, but honestly I wouldn't mind the category deletion from most tournaments if and only if categories are thereafter liberalized in their definitions. As has been alluded to several times already, Charles Ives, Aaron Copland, and Kendrick Lamar have all won Pulitzer Prizes for music, and yet one is suspiciously absent from most music questions. It's time to acknowledge that there are plenty of "trash" films (I'll give a specific shoutout to Shaft since Gordon Parks was mentioned) that have had a far greater impact on both culture and filmmaking style than many "art" films have. Call them trash or academic, but these are things that deserve to be asked about regardless.
I mean it's not like other winners of the Pulitzer Prize for Music in the 2010s are coming up a lot (if ever).

I still think quizbowl should reward some degree of intellectual engagement in the academic distribution. The pop cultural reach of recent literary novels is a lot less than music, movies, videogames, etc. People need to do a bit extra work to learn about Adichie compared to, say, Kendrick Lamar.

Quizbowl, at least in the academic canon, has traditionally prioritized "high" culture. There's been some well-founded pushback against this (in part because what's consider "high" vs. "low" is often problematic). But I still think the academic canon should in general prioritize this higher canon even as more attention is paid to expanding the geographic and genre reaches of "high".
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Re: Trash Questions in College Sets

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots »

esotericReference wrote: Mon Jun 08, 2020 12:29 pm With regard to the question of film, the distinction that quiz bowl tends to draw between "trash" film and "art" film borders on the arbitrary. To pick on one endlessly-recurring example, Oldboy far more strongly resembles most "trash" movies — action oriented, high-concept plotlines, hefty star power — than it does most "art" movies, and yet I'll be damned if I can make it a few months without seeing it placed in the VA distribution of some tournament.

I love trash quiz bowl probably as much as I love traditional quiz bowl, but honestly I wouldn't mind the category deletion from most tournaments if and only if categories are thereafter liberalized in their definitions. As has been alluded to several times already, Charles Ives, Aaron Copland, and Kendrick Lamar have all won Pulitzer Prizes for music, and yet one is suspiciously absent from most music questions. It's time to acknowledge that there are plenty of "trash" films (I'll give a specific shoutout to Shaft since Gordon Parks was mentioned) that have had a far greater impact on both culture and filmmaking style than many "art" films have. Call them trash or academic, but these are things that deserve to be asked about regardless.
I just don't really understand why need to rehash this discussion? Popular culture should be asked in most quizbowl tournaments, since it's culturally relevant and broadly accessible, but it has to be asked in such a way that it won't take over the academic distribution. That's the dilemma we've had to deal with basically as long as good quizbowl has been around. For that entire time, the most effective solution has been to ask about those topics in a separate popular culture distribution; I see no real benefit to deviating from that formula now.

I agree with other suggestions people have made on how to write better popular culture questions. Specifically, try to cover a wide range of subjects in your questions, write pyramidal tossups with accessible answerlines, and avoid topics that seemingly get covered at every tournament. I'm old so I don't know what regular tournaments have done this well recently, but I thought ACF Regionals 2014 did this well when I was playing.
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